The North Sea


The North Sea is a part of the Atlantic Ocean. It lies between Great Britain and the northern and northwestern mainland of Europe. Seven countries border the North Sea: Germany, Denmark, The Netherlands, Belgium, France, Norway and the U.K.

The North Sea covers an area of about 200,000 square miles (565,000 square kilometres). It originated after the last Ice Age in Europe. At that time most of Western Europe was covered with vast sheets of ice. The British Isles were a part of the European mainland. When the ice melted, water covered low-lying areas as sea levels rose, thus separating the British Isles from the rest of Europe. Geologically, the North Sea is part of the European continental shelf. It has an average depth 100 meters. The shallowest area is the Dogger Bank, which is only 12 metres deep.


One arm of the North Sea forms a narrow strait around Denmark and connects with the Baltic Sea. In the south, Great Britain and France are separated by the English Channel, only 20 miles wide. While the coasts of Denmark, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands are flat, numerous fjords mark Norway’s coast.

Over the decades, the North Sea has become an area of widespread economic activity. It is an important trading route with large harbours around it. Among them are Rotterdam, the world’s busiest harbour, London and Hamburg. For ships, however, the North Sea  is one of the most dangerous places to travel. Weather conditions can be extreme, with strong winds storms and frequent fog.               

The North Sea is among the world’s richest fishing grounds. About three million tons of fish are caught every year. However, overfishing and the pollution of North Sea waters have become a threat to the various fish species in the region.

At the beginning of the 1960s, geologists discovered oil and natural gas in the North Sea. In the last fifty years, energy companies from around the world have exploited these resources. Especially Norway and Great Britain, the leading oil producers in Europe, depend on North Sea oil for much of their income. Offshore platforms throughout the sea bring oil and gas to the surface, from where it is pumped onto tankers or brought to coastal areas via underwater pipelines. The North Sea is the most productive offshore drilling region in the world. It became especially important as an alternative to Middle Eastern oil during the energy crisis of the 1970s .


Over the years, industrial pollution has threatened the North Sea’s ecosystem. The Rhine, Thames and other rivers bring chemicals and waste to the sea.

Widespread flooding is one of the main problems that face bordering countries. Occasionally, heavy storms combine with high tides and flood low-lying areas. London, northern Germany and the Netherlands have been flooded many times throughout history. As a result, barriers on the Thames and the Dutch coast have been set up to protect densely populated coastal regions.


Related Topics



  • average = normal, standard
  • barrier = gate that keeps water out
  • border = to go around
  • British Isles = group of islands that includes Great Britain , Ireland and the small islands around them
  • busiest = here: with the most activity
  • coastal = near the coast; where land meets the sea
  • connect = link, join
  • continental shelf = the edge of a continent , from where it slopes down steeply to the bottom of the ocean
  • cover = include
  • decade = ten years
  • densely populated = many people live in an area
  • depend on = need
  • depth = how deep something is
  • discover = to find something for the first time
  • ecosystem = the animals and plants in a certain area and the way they live together
  • energy crisis = time at which there is not enough energy
  • especially = above all
  • exploit = develop for industrial use
  • face = to deal with
  • fjord = rivers that have been made deeper by glaciers; they were flooded after the last Ice Age; today these coasts are surrounded by high mountains, especially in Norway
  • flood = when water from a river or sea covers the land
  • fog = cloudy wet air near the ground
  • frequent = very often
  • geologically = about the rocks that form the earth
  • however = but
  • income = the money you get for something that you sell
  • industrial pollution = when air and rivers become dirty through factories
  • low-lying = flat land near the coast
  • mainland = the main part of a continent, without the islands around it
  • numerous = many
  • occasionally = sometimes, but not very often
  • originate = here: was formed
  • overfishing = when you take too many fish from the sea , so that their population becomes too low
  • pollution = to make something dirty
  • productive = here: to produce as much as possible
  • protect = keep something safe
  • resources = raw materials
  • rise – rose = to go up
  • sea level = the height of the ocean
  • separate = split, divide
  • set up = construct
  • shallow = not deep
  • sheet = layer
  • species = group of animals or plants that are similar and can reproduce
  • strait = narrow area of water between two countries; it usually connects seas or oceans
  • surface = top part of something
  • threat = danger
  • throughout = in all of
  • thus = therefore, that is why
  • tide = the regular rising and falling of the sea
  • trading route = way that ships follow in order to bring goods from one area to another
  • various = different kinds of
  • vast = very large
  • via = through
  • widespread = common; all over a place